BlĂĄtand (Bluetooth), King of Denmark from 940 to 981, who was responsible
for uniting Denmark and Norway. The idea here is that Bluetooth can unite
things that were previously un-unitable. (Weâ€™re a little rusty on our medieval
Scandinavian history, so if weâ€™re wrong about that, blame our high school his-
tory teachers â€” if youâ€™re a Dane or Norwegian, feel free to e-mail us back
with the story here!)
The big cell phone (and other telecommunications equipment) manufacturer
Ericsson was the first company to promote the technology (back in the 1990s,
as we mention earlier), and other cell phone companies joined in with Ericsson
to come up with an industry de facto standard for the technology. The Institute
of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) â€” the folks who created the 802.11
standards that weâ€™ve been talking about throughout Wireless Home Networking
For Dummies â€” have since become involved with the technology under the
auspices of a committee named 802.15. The initial IEEE standard for PANs,
802.15.1, was adapted from the Bluetooth specification and is fully compatible
with Bluetooth 1.1, which is the third and current version of Bluetooth.
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network
If youâ€™re looking for a few facts and figures about Bluetooth, youâ€™ve come to
the right chapter. Here are some of the most important things to remember
Bluetooth operates in the 2.4 GHz frequency spectrum. It uses the same
general chunk of the airwaves as do 802.11b and 802.11g. (This means that
interference between the two technologies is indeed a possibility.)
The Bluetooth specification allows a maximum data connection speed
of 723 Kbps. Compare this with the 11 Mbps of 802.11b. Bluetooth is
much slower than wireless LAN technologies.
Bluetooth uses much lower power levels than do wireless LAN tech-
nologies (802.11x). Thus, Bluetooth devices should have a much smaller
impact, power-wise, than an 802.11 device. This is a huge deal for some
of the small electronic devices that are being Bluetooth-enabled because
it means that Bluetooth will eat up a whole lot less battery life than will
Because Bluetooth uses a lower power level than does 802.11, it canâ€™t
beam its radio waves as far as 802.11 does. Thus, the range of Bluetooth
is considerably less than that of a wireless LAN. Theoretically, you can
get up to 100 meters, but most Bluetooth systems use less than the max-
imum allowable power ratings, and youâ€™ll typically see ranges of 30 feet
or less with most Bluetooth gear â€” meaning that youâ€™ll be able to reach
across the room (or into the next room) but not all the way across the
Bluetooth uses a peer-to-peer networking model. This means that you
donâ€™t have to connect devices back through a central network hub like
an access point (AP) â€” devices can connect directly to each other using
Bluetoothâ€™s wireless link. The Bluetooth networking process is highly
automated; Bluetooth devices actively seek out other Bluetooth devices
to see whether they can connect and share information.
Bluetooth doesnâ€™t require line of sight between any of the connected
Bluetooth can also connect multiple devices together in a point-to-
multipoint fashion. One master device (often a laptop computer or a PDA)
can connect with up to seven slave devices simultaneously in this manner.
(Slave devices are usually things such as keyboards, printers, and so on.)
The really big deal that you should take away from this list is the fact that
Bluetooth is designed to be a low-power (and low-priced!) technology for
portable and mobile devices. Bluetooth (do they call it Bleutooth in France?)
is not designed to replace a wireless LAN. Itâ€™s designed to be cheaply built
into devices to allow quick and easy connections.
280 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
Some of the PAN applications that Bluetooth has been designed to perform
include the following:
Cable replacement: Peripheral devices that use cables today â€”
keyboards, mice, cell phone headsets, and the like â€” can now (or will
soon, in the very near future) cut that cord and use Bluetooth links
Synchronization: Many people have important information (such as
address books, phone number lists, and calendars) on multiple devices
(such as a PC, PDA, and cell phone), and keeping this information syn-
chronized (up-to-date and identical on each device) can be a real pain in
the butt. Bluetooth (when combined with synchronization software)
allows these devices to wirelessly and automatically talk with each other
and keep up to date.
Simple file sharing: If youâ€™ve ever been at a meeting with a group of
technology geeks (we go to these meetings all the time, but then, weâ€™re
geeks ourselves), you might have noticed these folks pulling out their
Palm PDAs and doing all sorts of contortions with them. What theyâ€™re
doing is exchanging files (usually electronic business cards) via the
built-in infrared (IR) system found on Palms. This is an awkward system
because you need to have the Palms literally inches apart with the IR
sensors lined up. Bluetooth, because it uses radio waves, has a much
greater range, which doesnâ€™t require that direct IR alignment . . . and is
much faster to boot.
Look for even more cool applications in the future. For example, Bluetooth
could be used to connect an electronic wallet (located on your PDA or cell
phone â€” the line between these devices is becoming blurred, so perhaps
your PDA/cell phone-combo device) to an electronic kiosk. For example, a
soda machine could be Bluetooth enabled, and if you wanted a soda, you
wouldnâ€™t need to spend ten minutes trying to feed that last, raggedy dollar
bill in your wallet into the machine. Youâ€™d just press a button on your PDA/cell
phone, and it would send a buck from your electronic wallet to the machine
and dispense your soda. (Pat will have a root beer, thank you very much.)
Another common future application might be customized information for a
particular area. Ever go to one of those huge conferences held in places like
Las Vegas? The booth numbers tend to go from 0 to 20,000, and the conven-
tion floor is about the size of 50 football fields â€” in other words, itâ€™s a real
pain in the rear to find your way around. With Bluetooth, you can simply walk
by an info kiosk and have a floor map and exhibitor display downloaded to
your PDA. Weâ€™re hoping that this is in place next time that we go to the
Consumer Electronics Show; we hate being late for appointments because
weâ€™re spending an hour searching for a booth.
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network
Bluetooth Mobile Phones
The first place where Bluetooth technology is really taking off is in the cell
phone world. This probably shouldnâ€™t be a surprise because Ericsson (a
huge, cell phone maker) was the initial proponent of the technology, and
other big (huge, actually) cell phone companies such as Nokia are also huge
proponents of the technology.
In early 2003, just about every new phone being announced (except for the
really cheap-o ones) includes Bluetooth technology. Sony Ericsson (thatâ€™s
Ericssonâ€™s brand), Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, and Siemens, among others,
have all begun selling Bluetooth-enabled phones. The adoption of the tech-
nology has been really spectacular. In 2002, it was a rarity, and in 2003, itâ€™s
just about standard.
You can do a lot of things with Bluetooth in a cell phone, but the four most
common applications are the following:
Replacing cables: Many people use headsets with their cell phones. Itâ€™s
a lot easier to hear with an earpiece in your ear than it is to hold one of
todayâ€™s miniscule cell phones up to your ear . . . and a lot more conve-
nient, too. The wire running up your torso, around your arm, and along
the side of your head into your ear is a real pain, though. (Some people
go to great lengths to keep from being tangled up in this wire â€” check
out the jackets at www.scottevest.com.) A better solution is to connect
your headset wirelessly â€” using Bluetooth, of course.
Synchronizing phone books: Lots of us keep a phone book on our PC or
PDA â€” and most of us who do have been utterly frustrated by the diffi-
culty that we face when we try to get these phone books onto our cell
phones. If you can do it at all (and you often canâ€™t), you end up buying
some special cable and software and then you still have to manually cor-
rect some of the entries. But with Bluetooth on your cell phone and PC
or PDA, the process can be automatic. (In the meanwhile, weâ€™ve been
using FutureDial, Inc.â€™s SnapSync [www.futuredial.com; $29] phone
synchronization software to load numbers into our phones. Itâ€™s the first
software that weâ€™ve found that does the trick easily and without error.
Buy it until you get a Bluetooth phone!)
Going hands-free in the car: Face it, driving with a cell phone in your
hands isnâ€™t a very safe thing to do. Using a headset is better, but the best
choice (except not using your phone while driving) is to use a completely
hands-free system in your car, which uses a microphone and speakers
(the speakers from your car audio system). This used to take a costly
installation process and meant having someone rip into the wiring and
282 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
interior of your car. And if you bought a new phone, you probably
needed to have the old hands-free gear ripped out and a new one
installed. No more â€” Bluetooth cars are here, and they let you use any
Bluetooth-enabled cell phone to go hands-free. Just set the phone in the
glove box or dashboard cubbyhole and donâ€™t touch it again. Keep your
hands and eyes on the road!
Getting your laptop on the Internet while on the road: We think that
the best way to connect your laptop to the Internet, when youâ€™re out
of the house, is to find an 802.11 hot spot (we talk about these in Chap-
ter 16), but sometimes youâ€™re just not near a hot spot. Well, worry no
more, because if youâ€™ve got a cell phone and laptop with Bluetooth, you
can use your cell phone as a wireless modem to connect to the Internet.
With most cell phone services, you can establish a low-speed, dialup
Internet connection for some basic stuff (like getting e-mail or reading
text-heavy Web pages). If your cell phone system (and plan) includes a
high-speed option (one of the so-called 2.5 or 3G systems), you can get
online at speeds rivaling (although not yet equaling) broadband connec-
tions like digital subscriber line (DSL). All without wires!
The list of Bluetooth-enabled cell phones and accessories is already too long
for us to list here. The Bluetooth Web site (listed earlier) maintains an up-to-
date listing of all Bluetooth cell phones and cell phone accessories available.
We expect that list to go from merely large (today) to huge in the very near
We also expect the list of applications for Bluetooth on cell phones to grow.
For example, many new cell phones are camera phones with a built-in digital
camera. The cell phone companies promote this concept because they can
charge customers for multimedia messaging services (MMSes) and allow
people to send pictures to other cell phone customers. But we can also fore-
see an application where you could use Bluetooth to send the picture that
you just snapped to your buddyâ€™s cell phone when heâ€™s within range (for
free!) or to download your pictures to your PC when you get home.
Weâ€™re beginning to see Bluetooth headsets (like those currently available for
cell phones) becoming available for home cordless phones as well. JABRAâ€™s
FreeSpeak wireless headset and multi-adapter for non-Bluetooth phones
(www.jabra.com; $179) plugs into any phone with a 2.5mm jack.
In addition to cell phones, the other category of device thatâ€™s really seeing a
lot of action in the Bluetooth arena is the PDA category. In case youâ€™re not
familiar with the concept, the term PDA (personal digital assistant) encom-
passes a wide range of handheld computing devices â€” and therefore, PDAs
are also often referred to as handhelds.
Chapter 15: Using a Bluetooth Network
The most common types of PDAs are the following:
PDAs that use the Palm operating system (OS): These are the granddad-
dies of the PDA space. Palmâ€™s original model, the Palm Pilot, basically cre-
ated the entire multibillion dollar PDA market back in the â€™90s. Today,
Palm has been split into two separate groups: Palm, Inc. (www.palm.com),
that makes a line of PDAs; and PalmSource, Inc. (www.palmsource.com),
that develops the Palm OS. One of the reasons why the company has been
split in two is the fact that a host of other companies (such as Sony, with
its CLIĂ‰ line [(www.sony.com/clie]) also manufacture and sell Palm OS-
based PDAs. Speaking very generally (there are a few notable exceptions),
Palm OS PDAs are the cheapest and easiest but also the least powerful (in
terms of raw computing power) of the PDAs available today.
Handhelds that use Microsoftâ€™s Pocket PC operating system: Pocket PC
handhelds are typically (though not always) a bit more expensive and
faster than Palm OS PDAs. The major manufacturers of Pocket PC systems
include Hewlett-Packard (HP; www.hp.com), Toshiba (www.toshiba.com),
and Dell (www.dell.com). In many ways, down to the user interface,
Pocket PCs tend to mirror Windows-based desktop and laptop computers
in a smaller, shrunken-down form. Pocket PC handhelds used to be consid-
erably more expensive than Palm handhelds, but because of a price war
among the vendors, the price differential has greatly decreased.
PDA/cell phone combinations: As we mention earlier in the
â€śDiscovering Bluetooth Basicsâ€ť section of this chapter, the line between
PDAs and cell phones becomes a bit more blurry with each passing day.
Companies such as Handspring (www.handspring.com) sell Palm OS-
based devices that are cell phones and PDAs in one, and other compa-
nies such as Siemens (www.siemens.com) sell Pocket PC-based combos.
Some cell phone/PDA combo devices use entirely different operating
systems (such as Symbian, or even the open-source Linux operating
system used on many business server computers).
Despite the variation in and among the PDA world, thereâ€™s also a
commonality â€” PDAs work a lot better as â€śconnectedâ€ť devices that can
talk to computers and other PDAs. And because PDAs and cell phones are
increasingly converging, or taking on the same functionality, any of the appli-
cations that we discuss in the preceding section (â€śBluetooth Mobile Phonesâ€ť)
might come into play with a PDA.
In particular, the synchronization application that we discuss in that section
is especially important for PDAs because they tend to be mobile, on-the-road-
again (thanks to Willie Nelson) extensions of a userâ€™s main PC. Most PDAs
today require either a docking cradle (a device that you physically sit the PDA
into, which is connected via a cable to the PC), or at least a USB or another
cable to synchronize contacts, calendars, and the like with the PC. With
Bluetooth, you just need to have your PDA in the same room as the PC, with
no physical connection. You can even set up your PDA to automatically syn-
chronize when itâ€™s within range of the PC.
284 Part IV: Using a Wireless Network
Accordingly, weâ€™ve begun to see Bluetooth functionality built into an increas-
ing number of PDAs. For example, Palmâ€™s newest model, the Tungsten T,
includes a built-in Bluetooth system, as does HPâ€™s Pocket PC OS iPAQ model
and Toshibaâ€™s e740 series of Pocket PC handhelds.
You can also buy some cool Bluetooth accessories for handhelds. One big
issue with handhelds is the process of entering data onto them. Most either
have a tiny keyboard (a thumb keyboard really, which is too small for using
all your fingers and touch typing) or use a handwriting system, where you
use a stylus and write in not-quite-plain English on the screen. Both of these
systems can work really well if you spend the time required to master them,
but neither is optimal, especially if you want to do some serious data entry â€”